CHICAGO – A Latino civil rights organization has reached a settlement regarding attorney’s fees in a lawsuit against Illinois state election officials and leaders of the state legislature over the use of redistricting plans that relied on population estimates rather than 2020 Census data, according to papers filed in federal court last week.
Illinois legislative defendants agreed to pay plaintiffs $200,000 in attorneys’ fees following the conclusion of a lawsuit filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Winston & Strawn LLP in June 2021. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a group of Latino registered voters, challenged legislative plans, which were adopted by the Illinois General Assembly prior to the release of 2020 Census data, as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, Equal Protection Clause guarantee of “one person, one vote.”
“Failure to comply with the Constitution is always costly to taxpayers,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Awards of fees are designed to discourage future civil rights violations, and we hope that this payment has that effect in Illinois.”
Later, state officials adopted a new set of plans that relied on Census data.
MALDEF’s initial challenge to the plans was successful. In October 2021, the court ruled that the maps, which failed to use 2020 Census data, were malapportioned and unconstitutional. The settlement is for the challenge to plans that did not use Census numbers.
“We are glad that we could reach an agreement with Illinois legislative leaders,” said Ernest Herrera, MALDEF Western Regional Counsel. “After prevailing in our challenge, this settlement represents what MALDEF deserves under the law.”
In the settlement, the state agreed to pay plaintiffs’ counsel $200,000 in attorney’s fees.